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Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

ACC coaches back idea of all D-I teams in 2021 NCAA tourney

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches are pushing the idea of having next year’s NCAA Tournament include all eligible teams in Division I.

Numerous league schools and coaches released statements Wednesday after the coaches held their weekly call to discuss the proposal, which was first reported by Stadium. There are 357 Division I programs in the country, with NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham saying 346 of those are eligible to play in next year’s tournament.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said the ACC coaches are “united in strongly pursuing this” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament days before the field of 68 was set to be revealed. Multiple coaches said creating an everybody-gets-in format would be an incentive for schools as they create the safest conditions possible for returning to play.

“This is not a regular season,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”

Durham declined comment specifically on the proposal in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Last month, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the Division I oversight committees for men’s and women’s basketball planned to announce by mid-September plans for whether the season and preseason practice would start on time or require a delay due to the pandemic.

Louisville coach Chris Mack said the proposal would provide flexibility during the season without mandating a number of nonconference or conference games to be played. And the league has already experienced that scheduling challenge with football and other fall sports.

The ACC announced in July that it would have each football team play 10 league games – including the addition of Notre Dame as a football member this year – and one nonconference game to be played in the home state of the member school. Those schedules were released in early August, slightly more than a month before Thursday’s UAB-Miami game kicks off the season.

“This is a time to think differently,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, adding: “After all these players have been through, what better way to reward them than the opportunity to compete in an unprecedented version of the most exciting event in sports.”

Son of former Syracuse hoops star Billy Owens joins Orange

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Chaz Owens, the son of former Syracuse All-American Billy Owens, has joined the Orange, men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim announced.

Chaz Owens spent the past year at Scotland Campus, a prep school in south-central Pennsylvania, in a postgraduate program after playing high school ball for four seasons in the state. As a senior at The Shipley School in the Philadelphia suburbs, the 6-foot-5 Owens averaged 11.4 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Billy Owens was a two-time All-American at Syracuse and Big East Conference player of the year in 1990-91. He finished with 1,840 career points and 910 rebounds in three seasons to rank 12th in scoring and ninth in rebounding in school history. He was selected by the Sacramento Kings as the third overall pick in the 1991 draft and spent 10 seasons in the NBA with six different teams.

Syracuse guard Alan Griffin cleared to play

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse guard Alan Griffin has been granted a waiver of the transfer residence requirement by the NCAA and is immediately eligible to play for the Orange, the school announced Tuesday.

A junior guard from Ossining, New York, Griffin spent his first two college seasons at Illinois and has two years of eligibility remaining.

Griffin saw action in 30 contests for the Illini as a freshman, averaging 2.8 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. In his sophomore season he averaged 8.9 points and 4.5 rebounds over 28 games and made 47 3-pointers. His 3-point percentage (41.6) was the best mark on the team.

NCAA looks to September for decision on basketball tipoff

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA will likely decide next month whether to start the college basketball season on time or have a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said Monday that mid-September will likely be the first of many decisions about the 2020-21 season. Gavitt said the NCAA has developed and studied contingency plans in case the season cannot be started on Nov. 10.

Four conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac-12, have postponed fall sports and hope to play in the spring. Six leagues, including the Big 12, ACC and SEC, are moving forward with plans to play in the fall.

The Pac-12 has said its postponement includes basketball, but other conferences have not mentioned plans for hoops.

Students at colleges across the country have started returning to campuses in recent weeks, leading to new COVID-19 clusters, and numerous football programs have been hit by positive tests.